I was reminded of my own mortality today. I guess you can say I had a near death experience, though the death I experienced was not my own.
No, I was never in any danger, nor was my life ever threatened. In fact, I was sitting in the air conditioned comfort of my home office sipping a nice cup of coffee and watching the dogs run around the yard when the moment came.
The sun was shining. The birds were chirping. Life was going along just fine.
Death was the furthest thing from my mind.
Then the news came that Corey Rudl had been killed in a high speed crash at a race track in California. At the moment of his death at the young age of 34, Corey was a passenger in a Porsche that hit a retaining wall at over 100 miles per hour, killing him instantly and the driver shortly thereafter. The track had been rented by a local car club so that Corey and his buddies could take their expensive, powerful cars to the track to see how fast they could go.
Corey died doing what he loved. Those closest to him say he would not have had it any other way.
Corey Rudl was not a professional race car driver. He was an entrepreneur, and one of the best of his breed.
Most of you who read this column probably have no idea who Corey Rudl was or what he accomplished during his short life, and that’s OK. You also have no idea of the imprint he made on me and millions of others who make our living (at least in part) as online marketers. Again, that’s OK. For all his accomplishments, those who knew him well have said that Corey was more concerned about building his businesses than being a public figure. By those accounts, Corey never really cared about being in the public limelight, even though he was probably the most visible and successful entrepreneur in his field.
Perhaps that’s why Corey Rudl was so successful. He knew what was really important when it came to building a business. The limelight came easy to him, but his focus always seemed to be on making his business stronger, serving his customers better. He also knew that there was life beyond business, and he pursued that life with a passion and energy that most of us can only imagine.
Corey Rudl’s story is the classic entrepreneur’s tale. He started his business from his kitchen table just a few short years ago selling a homemade booklet he had written on how to get the best deal on a new car. From that modest start Corey built an internet marketing empire that has generated $40 million dollars in revenue in just a few years.
Corey was the definitive internet marketing guru. He was young, energetic, and highly passionate about his business and his industry. He wrote and spoke frequently on the topics of internet marketing and business success and that’s where he and I briefly crossed paths. We were both expert columnists for Entrepreneur.com and exchanged several polite emails, nothing really personal, mind you, mostly swapping compliments of each others work.
Much of Corey’s time in recent years was spent teaching others how to do what he had done: build a successful online business from scratch. For a man of just 34 years, he packed in decades of expertise and knowledge and he shared it with anyone who would listen, including yours truly.
I never personally spoke or shook hands with Corey Rudl, but I was his customer, his student, and ultimately an admirer. I can attribute much of the success of my own online business to Corey’s teachings and principles. He was one of those rare birds that you didn’t have to meet to feel like you were on a first-name basis with him. Everyone in my little circle of internet marketing friends simply referred to him as “Corey” and we spoke of him warmly, as a friend and mentor. He set the bar for all of us. We wanted to achieve his level of success. We wanted to hit his heights. We wanted to be the entrepreneur that he was.
Corey had just recently married the girl of his dreams. He was a millionaire many times over. He had a big house and fancy cars and a future so bright he had to wear shades. His business was thriving. Life was perfect. Corey Rudl truly had the world by the tail and there was no chance he’d ever let go. I imagine he was holding on tight until the very end.
The lessons we learn from the death of Corey Rudl are the same lessons we always learn when someone so young and vibrant is suddenly taken from us. As entrepreneurs we should take those lessons and apply them not only to our own lives, but to our businesses, as well.
Lesson One: live everyday as if it is your last, because it just might be. As entrepreneurs we often think that our businesses have to come first on our list of priorities. It’s not until a tragedy reminds us that life is too short that we think about making time for the things in life that are really important. Get out from behind your desk. Go play with your kids. Hug your wife. Call your mother.
Lesson Two: be passionate about business, but never let it eclipse your passion for life. Corey was a true entrepreneur whose passion for business was unparalleled, but by all accounts he also knew that a life devoted strictly to business was a life not lived to its fullest. Corey died doing what he loved. Some will argue that his passion killed him and in a way that’s true, but I have to believe that before he knew he was in danger Corey had a smile on his face a mile wide. He would not have lived his life any other way.
As I finish this column my oldest daughter has come in to ask if I’d like the honor of taking her out to Sunday brunch. She’s seventeen now. She has a job, a car, and a life that is very much her own. Chances to be graced with her presence grow rarer with each passing week. Still, any other day I might have weighed her invitation against the eight million business-related things that need my attention.
Today, however, the decision is easy.